Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Peterborough.
Budget 2013 is all about jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. In order for there to be long-term prosperity, we must balance our budget, as we said we would, by 2015, we must keep our taxes low and we must control spending. These are conditions for success.
I know the hon. member has talked about being skeptical about whether taxes would be raised. Since we have taken office, we have reduced taxes 150 times, and today an average family of four is able to keep over $3,200 that would otherwise go to taxes of one kind or another, so there will be no increase in taxes.
It is important to control spending. Continued cuts in departmental spending, reducing travel costs, closing tax loopholes, improving CRA compliance programs and providing for a better and more efficient administration are positive steps to ensure our budget is balanced by 2015, and it will be balanced.
In addition to getting this right, we need to make sure that businesses continue to grow by providing the human resources they need and the infrastructure they rely on. Those are two fundamentals required for growth.
With respect to the budget, Alexandre Laurin, associate director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute, stated in The Globe and Mail on March 21, 2013:
Overall, the 2013 budget should be well received by markets. Budgetary balance is projected based on reasonable assumptions and within the previously announced time frame.
These are well-founded assumptions.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in its new release, stated:
Overall, this is a good budget for small business. [The minister] has done a solid job by remaining on course to eliminate the deficit while announcing some important measures for Canada’s entrepreneurs.
No matter where members of the human resource committee travel in Canada, whether it is Vancouver, Whitehorse, Fort McMurray, St. John's, my home province of Saskatchewan or Montreal, we heard of skilled worker shortages in specific segments of the economy, with warnings that the situation would be getting worse, especially in the mining, construction and oil and gas extraction industries.
To be fair, we have made significant improvements in many areas, such as the temporary foreign worker program. I know many people in the fast food and hospitality industries have mentioned time and time again that they rely quite heavily on foreign workers, especially when Canadian workers are drawn to high-demand or high-paying jobs. In fact, one owner indicated that he would stay at work well into the night looking after his business and many times would fall asleep while there. He said this was important for him to grow his business and meet the demands out there.
That is one way to do it.
Another way is through immigration, by ensuring that the movement of our workers between provinces can take place. I know many have touted the Red Seal program and the fact that we should make it as easy as possible for people to go from province to province where the work is. The budget addresses the apprenticeship program and interprovincial mobility. As well, our first nations youth and under-represented groups in our high schools and community colleges have all been looked at in the budget.
The provinces have been able to rely on the provincial nominee program. I know Saskatchewan has embraced that program. In fact, the premier has asked for the numbers to be increased. In fairness, Saskatchewan has increased those numbers by thousands. The immigration minister has been transforming the immigration system on a federal level to attract talented newcomers with the skills and experience that our economy requires.
In the coming year, the federal skilled worker program will have an updated points system to take into account language proficiency and youth. Going forward, a new and innovative expression of interest immigration management system will allow for Canadian employers, provinces and territories to select immigrants from a pool of applicants that best meet Canada's economic needs.
Significant steps have been taken to ensure that foreign credentials are recognized. We have a select group of occupations that will have that assessment done within a year.
I had the pleasure of announcing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, that bridge financing would be provided to those who wished to use the financing to upgrade themselves in any area where there was a shortfall. In fact, many foreign credentials are recognized before people come into the country. Agreements have been signed with countries to recognize credentials that are accepted in a particular country.
All of these steps are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that, when put in place, help employers to grow our economy. It really is about jobs, growth in the economy and long-term prosperity.
That said, there is still a great desire for skilled workers in the trades and occupations who come from within Canada and from under-represented groups. The budget itself directly addresses this by creating the Canadian job grant. It provides $15,000 or more per person, including a maximum federal contribution of $5,000 that is matched by provincial, territorial and employer funding to help Canadians get the skills they need for in-demand jobs.
This budget sets the groundwork for continued prosperity and economic activity. The Certified General Accountants Association of Canada said:
The government delivered a responsible budget for uncertain times. ... We welcome the skills training initiative. In creating the Job Grant fund, the federal government has shown leadership in addressing the growing skills gap. We encourage provinces to support it. All should benefit—employers, workers and governments.
Just recently, on March 23, Licia Corbella of the Calgary Herald quoted Christopher Smillie, senior advisor, government relations and public affairs, building and construction trades department, AFL-CIO, as stating:
It means that the people will be trained for specific jobs which is a good thing. By attaching the money to an employer it means the worker will be training for a job that actually exists. It's about time this kind of common-sense approach was implemented.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation had this to say in its March 21 news release:
[The CTF applauds] the government's plans to overhaul job training and keep a lid on spending.... It's good to see Ottawa getting training money directly in the hands of young workers so they can land a good-paying job.
These are all important aspects of providing the human resources that businesses need.
In addition to providing the human resources, we need to provide the infrastructure they need and rely on in order to carry on their businesses. Again, as a committee, whether we heard from northern or remote areas or from cities or municipalities, the one common theme was that we need to have the infrastructure if we want to expand the economy. We need roads, bridges, provision of electrical services and facilities to transport and ship products to market. We need to alleviate traffic in the downtown communities and improve municipal infrastructure to provide the foundation and fundamentals that will ensure the continued expansion and growth of our economy. That is why the budget provides for long-term infrastructure programs with provinces and municipalities worth over $53 billion over 10 years.
Municipalities were looking for long-term, sustainable and predictable funding, and the budget goes a long way toward that goal. It includes $32.2 billion over 10 years for the community improvement fund through an indexed gas tax fund, which they have been asking for. It also includes $14 billion for a new building Canada fund to support major economic projects of national, regional and local significance, and $6 billion under current infrastructure programs. All of these are long-term, predictable funding.
All in all, it is a good budget that will ensure continued economic prosperity not only in the short term but for future generations as well. As the Minister of Finance said, “We remain focused on what matters to Canadians—jobs and economic growth, and ensuring Canada's economic advantage today will translate into the long-term prosperity of tomorrow.”
The budget has a number of very specific items to help small business and farmers and ensures that we set the foundation and framework for the successful operation of the economy and to increase and expand it.